Heart Disease and Oral Health

It has been theorized since the 1920’s that heart disease and oral health are linked. Recent research has indicated links not only between heart disease and oral health, but between oral health and diabetes, hypertension, lung infections, and dementia. Although the links are not perfectly clear, research continues to try to narrow down specifics as to how the health of your mouth influences the overall health of your body. In today’s blog, your Lake Forest Dentist, Dr. Fondriest discusses the relevant theories along with heart disease and dental treatment.

Heart Disease and Dental Health are Linked

Research indicates that people who suffer chronic heart issues present with periodontal (gum) disease at an increased rate than heart healthy individuals. A recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology included nearly 16,000 participants with chronic coronary artery disease. The participants underwent a thorough physical examination, blood testing, and were asked to complete an in-depth lifestyle questionnaire including questions regarding their dental health and tooth loss. The results of the survey showed that:

·         70% were smokers

·         41% had fewer than 15 teeth remaining

·         26% were gum bleeders

·         16% were edentulous (completely toothless)

According to the blood tests and exams, those with higher prevalence of tooth loss also had higher glucose levels, LDL cholesterol levels, higher systolic blood pressure, and were larger at the waist. Participants with a higher frequency of bleeding gums had higher LDL cholesterol levels, and higher systolic blood pressure. As the largest study to date, it clearly indicates common risks factors for dental disease and heart disease.

Gum disease showers the bloodstream with bacteria

Theory #1: Harmful oral bacteria, particularly streptococcus mutans, are the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. One theory is that these bacteria can a) either release toxins into the bloodstream that contribute to heart disease or b) be released into the blood stream when chewing, brushing, or flossing, and clog the arteries with fatty plaque. Several species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the plaque in cardiovascular arteries as well as elsewhere in the body. Plaque deposits can cause blood clots and restrict blood flow leading to heart disease and stroke.

Theory #2: Another theory is that harmful oral bacteria cause the liver to make high levels of certain proteins resulting in inflammation of blood vessels. The inflammation can stress the blood vessels causing damage, and the immune system’s response to these toxins could result in blood clotting more easily leading to heart attack or stroke.

Theory #3:  The inflammation in the oral cavity due to periodontitis, the severe form of periodontal disease, is not restricted to the mouth but spreads throughout the body putting stress on the heart.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

For people who suffer from heart disease, dental treatment may have to be altered due to their risk of developing endocarditis (infection of the heart). This can happen when harmful oral bacteria are released into the blood stream and attach themselves to damaged heart valves or damaged heart tissue. People with certain heart conditions were required to take antibiotics before dental treatment to prevent this from happening. However, in 2007, the guidelines were changed. Pre-dental antibiotic treatment is still recommended for:

  • People who have had endocarditis in the past
  • People with artificial heart valves
  • People who had heart transplants and later developed heart valve problems
  • People born with cyanotic heart disease that was not repaired or was repaired incompletely. This includes people with shunts and conduits
  • People born with a heart defect that was completely repaired with a prosthetic material or device are required to take antibiotics for the first six months after the procedure
  • People with any repaired heart defect that still has some defect at or next to the site of a prosthetic patch or device

Gum Disease is also linked to strokes

How much do you know about stroke prevention? Did you know that stroke is linked to oral health? Although diabetes and high blood pressure are well-known risk factors for stroke, a recent study released by the Seoul National University-College of Dentistry in Seoul, North Korea, found that gum disease poses double the stroke risk of diabetes and the same risk as high blood pressure.

Dr. Tiejan Wu, of the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his colleagues studied gum disease in 10,000 adults over 21 years of age. Wu pinpointed a link between gum disease and stroke: bad bacteria enter the bloodstream through the mouth and cause a blood clot or vessel damage. When the blood clot blocks a vessel or the damaged vessel ruptures, causing brain hemorrhaging, a stroke can occur.

Luckily, you can lessen your risk for gum disease and stroke by:

  • Stopping use of tobacco products
  • Moderating alcohol intake
  • Properly brushing and flossing on a daily basis
  • Scheduling appointments with your dentist every six months

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

If you are suffering from chronic bad breath, discuss the many treatment options with your Lake Forest dentist, Dr. Fondriest. Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.